NFL gives three Super Bowls to cities with new stadiums, implies, “Keep ’em coming”

The NFL awarded the 2019, 2020, and 2021 Super Bowls to Atlanta, Miami, and Los Angeles yesterday, continuing its policy of using the big game as a reward to cities and teams with new or significantly renovated stadiums. Or as Rams owner Stan Kroenke said following the decision, “I think they are telling the communities and the owners who stick their necks out that it’s worthwhile.”

The most important target of the announcement, then, isn’t the three cities that will now get the questionable benefit of hosting the NFL’s annual week-long road show, but those that are being wooed with that dubious carrot. Right now most of the reporting is on how New Orleans and Tampa Bay were snubbed because their stadiums aren’t as shiny as the cities that got the nod, but it’ll be interesting to see how this plays into future coverage of stadium campaigns — already, San Diego Union Tribune chief Chargers stadium cheerleader Kevin Acee has written that the possibility of getting a Super Bowl shouldn’t be the reason to vote for a new stadium, but really he means that you should vote for a new stadium regardless, so all remains right with the world.

Interestingly, there’s no reporting yet that I can see out of Las Vegas on the Super Bowl decision, but that may be because they’re too busy covering yesterday’s conflicting comments on a potential Oakland Raiders move from owner Mark Davis (“This is the real deal. If Las Vegas can come through, we’re going to be there”) and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (“It’s very premature at this point. Until we have more information, it’s pure speculation”). This could be just everyone playing their role — in terms of using Vegas as leverage in hopes of drumming up stadium subsidies from Oakland, Davis is bad cop, Goodell is good cop — or it could be a sign of deeper rifts among league owners over whether Davis should get to bolt from a bigger market to a smaller one in exchange for a lucrative (to him) stadium deal, and on what terms. We won’t know for sure until the next ESPN postmortem, I expect.

NFL commissioner waves around well-worn Super Bowl promise to boost Chargers petition drive

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did what commissioners do on Saturday, promising San Diego a Super Bowl if it approves a new stadium for the Chargers. Well, not promising exactly:

“I’m confident that if they can get a stadium built here, the owners will want to support it with a Super Bowl,” Goodell said. “I think that’s what this community deserves, and we’re all going to work to try and find a solution.”

Yeah, you can totally take that promise to the bank. Not that San Diego wouldn’t get a Super Bowl with a new stadium — they hold them every year, after all, and it wouldn’t be too hard to work San Diego into the rotation at least once — but Goodell’s appearance was far less “announcement” than “media event,” designed to help kick off the Chargers’ petition campaign for $1.15 billion in city spending on a new stadium and convention center annex. A Super Bowl also wouldn’t much help in paying that off, as innumerable economists have found, but at least it might be a pleasant distraction, maybe?

Chargers renderings of proposed stadium show off state-of-the-art Photoshop lens flare

San Diego Chargers vaportecture porn, everybody!

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 2.37.48 PMLow_Corner_from_Northwest_credit_MANICA_t1200x62016th_Street_Ground_Level_credit_MANICA_t1200x620chargers4_t1200x620Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 2.37.10 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 2.37.21 PM Architect David Manica called the building “soft, friendly, of San Diego,” “like a natural evolution of the downtown architecture.” To this end, it will be surrounded by fluffy clouds, and have beams of light streaming up from the field, either because of a state-of-the-art lighting system or because once the stadium is complete, Jesus will return to perform the Super Bowl halftime show.

There’s also a park that’s described by the San Diego Union-Tribune as “over an earthquake fault,” presumably to get around that pesky “don’t build stadiums on top of earthquake faults” law. That building that appears to be embedded in the stadium wall is the “historic Wonderbread building” currently on the site, which “would be preserved and integrated into the 16th street facade of the project and would be home to local restaurants, cafes, or other active retail components,” addressing the don’t tear down a historic 1894 factory building concerns. Plus a semi-retractable roof, so the boats don’t get wet from all the San Diego rain!

The architects were quick to describe these drawings as “conceptual,” which means “don’t think the actual stadium is necessarily going to look like this” as well as “I can make it longer if you like the style.” It looks fine enough as stadiums go, though I expect that roof will be the first thing to go if costs need to be trimmed. That’s if San Diego voters agree to give it $1.15 billion in bonds in the first place, of course, which remains a longshot, though maybe “old building embedded in outer wall, plus fireworks!!1!” will be enough to win a few more votes.

Proposed Chargers stadium could sit atop an earthquake zone

What was the one missing element that the San Diego Chargers stadium mess needed? I’m going to go with earthquakes:

“One thing I haven’t heard anything about (unless I’ve just missed it) is the fact that the proposed downtown stadium site is in the middle of a California Earthquake Fault Special Studies Zone (aka Alquist-Priolo Zone). …In general California law prohibits building structures meant for human occupancy within 50 feet of an active fault. Has any consideration been given to this in the downtown stadium design?”…

A major strand of the Rose Canyon fault runs through East Village, [three San Diego geologists] remind. … The proposed convadium footprint is “literally, right in the center of the (Rose Canyon) fault zone” as determined by a 25-year-old California Geological Survey, [geologist Diane] Murbach told me.

I would quote more, but these are pretty much the only sentences in San Diego Union-Tribune news columnist Logan Jenkins’ column that don’t include terrible “our fault” or “shaky ground” puns, so I’ll spare you those. It’s entirely possible that this isn’t a huge deal, as the Chargers insist, or it could end up being a striped bass-sized controversy that scuttles the whole plan. If the plan doesn’t fall apart of its own weight before November, that is. It’s increasingly difficult to tell whether this “convadium” business is an idea so crazy it could never happen, or just crazy enough to work.

Chargers stadium plan hits snags, sportswriter loses mind

Big things are happening with the San Diego Chargers‘ stadium push, and chief Chargers fan Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune is freaking out, man:

I’m fighting the urge to simply stop writing. This is insane floating on ludicrous lost in a sea of nonsense.

One could argue that that second sentence alone should be argument that Acee stop writing, but anyway, WTF exactly is going on? Here’s WTF:

That’s all a big mess, and the only thing 100% clear is that the Briggs-Chargers coalition, which seemed like a bit of a crazy idea to begin with, is already starting to fall apart, with Acee, at least, now openly advocating that the Chargers throw Briggs under the bus and proceed with their own convadium initiative. Which would probably require a two-thirds supermajority (since it would allocate hotel taxes directly to the Chargers project), which means it would almost certainly never pass, which means…

If you’re prone to conspiracy theories that Spanos is just creating a disaster so he can throw up his hands and move to Los Angeles at the end of the year, today’s a day for you. On the other hand, dueling political interests can easily create disasters all by themselves, so maybe no special plotting was required. I just hope that this all ends with the Chargers opposing their own ballot measure, because we haven’t had one of those in a while.

Chargers owner wants $1.15b in city bonds for stadium, convention center, pony

The San Diego Chargers owners have let drop some more details about their proposal for a downtown stadium, in a briefing for reporters yesterday. As revealed last week, the Spanos family wants a whopping 4% hotel tax hike, which would help fund a new $1 billion stadium, to open by the year 2022, like so:

  • The city would take the proceeds from the hotel tax hike and use it to sell $1.15 billion in bonds, $350 million of which would be used for stadium construction, and another $200 million of which would be used to buy land for the stadium/convention center complex.
  • The Chargers owners would put in $350 million of their own money, presumably with the help of selling naming rights. (Sports team owners always get to call naming rights money their contribution, even if the stadium is partly paid for by other parties and if they don’t themselves own it. This is usually termed “standard business practice,” which is a euphemism for “all the other kids’ moms let them do it.”)
  • The NFL would kick in $200 million in G-4 money, plus the $100 million in consolation prize money it agreed to give the Chargers and Oakland Raiders out of the Los Angeles Rams‘ relocation fee.
  • The Chargers would pay for cost overruns. No word yet that I’ve found on who’d pay for operating costs or property taxes.

The other $600 million in bonds would go to pay for construction of a convention center annex. Chargers execs say there would also be money left over from the tax hike for the general fund and other uses, though they didn’t provide details, presumably because they have no friggin’ clue how much money the tax hike would eventually produce.

This would be somewhat worse for San Diego taxpayers than the already-not-great plan that Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed last summer: That one would have been limited to $350 million from the public (part from the city, part from the county), whereas this one also includes land costs, though part of those would go for the extra convention center space. (Which San Diego also probably doesn’t need, but I’ll leave that for Heywood Sanders to go into.) The main takeaway here, in fact, looks to be that Dean Spanos intends to take the $100 million the NFL gave him from L.A. relocation fees and pocket it, using it to reduce his stadium costs rather than the city’s, which is to be expected, I guess, given that he’s the one writing this proposal.

Actually, the real main takeaway is that Spanos is trying to go with an “everything but the kitchen sink” plan: It’s not just a stadium, it’s a convention center! And money for tourism promotion! And for the general fund! And to get Agent Carter back on the air! The hope here — in addition to getting backers of a convention center expansion on board their stadium campaign — is to so muddy the waters in advance of any public vote that people feel there’s something for everyone, and maybe it squeaks through to a majority.

It’s still not clear whether the stadium bid needs a majority or a supermajority of voters in November, incidentally, and may not even be worked out by the courts before the vote. Plus, there’s a mayoral election in November, though it may be skipped if someone is a clear winner in the June non-partisan primary. This is all a big flaming ball of uncertainty, in other words, so it’s probably appropriate that the funding plan is, too.

Chargers owner wants 4% hotel tax hike to raise $950m for new stadium and convention center

Remember that rumor that San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos was going to find a way to build a new downtown stadium with “100% private funding“? Hope you didn’t take that too seriously, because the actual funding plan has now been leaked, and it’s a doozy:

The Chargers will ask San Diego voters in November to raise taxes on hotel stays to 16.5 percent from today’s 12.5 percent rate to help build a $1.8 billion hybrid stadium and convention center next to Petco Park downtown, said sources close to the team’s negotiations with lawyers, bankers and the hotel industry…

Under the financing plan taking shape, the Chargers would deposit $650 million —including $300 million from the National Football League and $350 million from the team — into a trust fund toward the stadium portion’s projected cost of $1 billion.

A new, city-controlled agency would contribute $350 million, using sales of tax-exempt bonds backed by the increase in hotel taxes. The Chargers would be responsible for any cost overruns for the stadium piece of the project beyond $1 billion, the sources said.

As for the convention center, hotel taxes would back its $600 million construction cost, along with $200 million for land acquisition.

That’s a total of $950 million to be generated by new hotel taxes, if you’re scoring at home. Which, yes, would be paid entirely by hotel visitors, not general taxpayers, but there would still be many costs to San Diego as a whole, opportunity and otherwise: If a 4% hotel-tax hike takes a bite out of hotel stays as some tourists seek out cheaper destinations, then that’s a cost to the city’s baseline hotel tax collection (and its economy); and if it doesn’t take a bite out of hotel stays, then it’s a 4% hike that could have been used to pay for something else other than a “convadium.”

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune’s report, the Chargers would pay operating costs for the stadium, would keep all NFL-related revenues (including naming rights), but let a city stadium authority get any revenue from the convention center and from non-NFL events at the stadium. Neither of which seems likely to amount to a ton compared to the football money, but it does make it harder to calculate whether this should be called a “$950 million public subsidy” (not that it’s going to stop me from doing so, until it’s proven otherwise).

This whole mess will be voted on by San Diego residents in November, though whether it will require a simple majority (maybe possible) or a two-thirds supermajority (you must be high) is likely to come down to a court to decide. So no odds on whether this thing is actually going to happen, but I guess Spanos deserves credit for going big.

Chargers stadium plan could require whole new petition drive, two-thirds majority, elfin magic

More details are in on how San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos plans to piggyback his stadium plan on a November ballot initiative to expand the city’s convention center, and the answer appears to be: He can’t, and is going to have to gather signatures for a whole new initiative.

According to California law, after an initiative has been drafted and submitted to the public for signature gathering, nothing in the initiative can be changed. We’re talking nary a crossed “t” [or] dotted “i.”

The Briggs initiative began the signature-gathering process in November of 2015 so if that one makes it to a vote in November of 2016 it’s going to be about a Convention Center expansion alone. However, the Chargers are going to keep their drive towards Downtown on track by using a different tactic.

“We are continuing to work with JMI and the Citizens’ Initiative/Briggs/Frye coalition on various approaches, and we continue our regular dialogue with the City of San Diego,” said Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani, who continues to work on the stadium situation. “As a result of all of these discussions, we hope to have a conclusion to present to the public within the next two weeks, at the latest.”

What that very likely means is they’re crafting a brand new citizens’ initiative.

It’s also still unclear whether any initiative could be passed by a simple majority (possible, maybe) or would require a two-thirds supermajority (now that’s crazy talk), something that it almost certain to end up in court.

NBC San Diego’s Derek Togerson also reports that “there are rumblings that the Bolts have found a way to finance the stadium using 100% private funding,” though the only mechanism he mentions is to somehow call upon Goldman Sachs, who, sure, were going to finance the money for a new stadium in Carson, but there was also supposed to be a whole lot more stadium revenues in Carson to repay their loans. (Remember, everyone’s a billionaire here, so having access to a pile of money isn’t the problem, it’s figuring out how to profit from it.) More to come within a couple of weeks, I guess? Either way, this could be way rougher sailing than just getting all the mayoral opposition candidates on board.

Two San Diego mayoral candidates endorse Chargers’ downtown “convadium” scheme

This is getting kind of interesting: Lori Saldaña, a candidate challenging San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer in this year’s election, has come out in favor of the citizen initiative to authorize a new downtown Chargers stadium/convention center expansion that team owner Dean Spanos has thrown himself behind. Ed Harris, another mayoral candidate, has already endorsed the initiative plan.

Neither of them would be in office to directly affect the plan, obviously — the initiative vote will be held the same day as the mayoral election — but having two prominent political candidates on their side certainly helps give the Chargers plan an additional soapbox. There are still a million obstacles to this plan, starting with where all the money would come from and how much it would cost to buy out and relocate existing businesses on the site, but stranger things have come to fruition, so don’t count this out entirely just yet.

Nobody is against downtown Chargers stadium/convention center, except for pretty much everybody

The San Diego Chargers want a combined stadium/convention center downtown. But the mayor doesn’t. And the county doesn’t. And the convention center doesn’t. Which should make for an amusing few months.

Having lost the great race for a deal in Los Angeles, the Chargers have now floated a plan for a combined stadium/convention center in downtown San Diego, just east of the Padres‘ Petco Park. The “convedium” scheme would stack the stadium on top of a 225,000-square-foot convention exhibit hall, with meeting space and ballrooms in a connected building. City officials and local hoteliers have long been pushing for an expansion of the existing convention center, and they’re armed with a study by our friends at Conventions, Sports & Leisure International that says a separate new center won’t boost local convention business the way a contiguous expansion would — a difference of exactly six conventions and trade shows a year.

The earlier expansion plan was blocked by the courts, ruling a scheme that used a fee on local hotels was really a tax, and that required a public vote. Now the Chargers have joined attorney Cory Briggs (who brought the suit that stopped the expansion effort) to back an initiative to change the way the city’s hotel tax is distributed.

It appears the public financing for the stadium/center combine would come from a hotel tax, and that will undoubtedly require a public vote (maybe a two-thirds majority vote) in spending-limit-heaven California. But while Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other local officials (and the hotel folks) will likely oppose it, the combination deal has lots of friends. The Chargers get to argue that a combined stadium and convention facility will bring more conventioneers to sunny San Diego. They’ve got Fred Maas, former downtown honcho and center expansion promoter, on board. John Moores, who did the deal that built Petco Park, will get a boost for his surrounding property. And the hotel types will get something, even if it’s not what they prefer.

Yet one big question mark is Comic-Con, the event that (according to the convention center) drew 130,000 attendees last year, fully 24 percent of total convention attendance. The Comic-Con folks want a contiguous expansion, not the Chargers deal. And Los Angeles and Anaheim have both tried to lure the event, which is facing increasing competition from a host of “Cons” around the country. Will San Diego lose the hordes of costumed superheroes? Will Spiderman spin a big web for a convention center?

Does it all make sense? No, but this is “Field of Schemes” after all.